Small business marketing is a tug of war.
To do, or not to do?
This is the catch-22 reality that many hardworking small-business owners experience in their marketing efforts when they’re trying to build and grow profitable businesses.
The current is constantly shifting in the marketplace. If what you know about marketing this minute, changes the next minute — you are not alone. Thousands of other new or seasoned business owners are suffering from the same crippling predicament.
It has changed. Like it or not, we live in a different world. It’s the digital world today.
So before you display your “in business” sign, or continue to market as usual, know this: you must have a solid foundation in small business marketing, one that’s integrated with strategies that work to help you achieve your end result.
Skip that, and your business’s profitability or growth is doomed.
But here’s the good news. The marketing that gives you the results you desire is possible – (Even when you’re operating on a tight budget).
You have the passion and the dream…And when you combine those with what this guide gives you:
- You will be equipped not only with knowledge but strategies that propel you to achieve the outcome you’re looking for from your marketing in 2021 and beyond.
- You will see how when you’re strategic with your marketing, you can still reap real benefits whether your marketing budget is $50 or $50,000.
Now, let’s dive in!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING: THE FOUNDATION
Planning and laying the foundation for your marketing is a fundamental part of having a successful, ongoing business. It can also fortify your strategy for marketing your small business.
- What Is Marketing in the First Place?
As I wrote in my post “The 5 Pillars to Building Any Successful, Long-Lasting Business,” “marketing is moving your audience to desire your products or services.” It is creating demand by helping your prospects value what you have to offer.
According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is a set of processes for creating and communicating and delivering value to customers, and managing customers’ relationships in a way that benefits the organization as stakeholders.”
And I like how Peter Drucker sums it up: “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”
Have you seen or read about what Apple did before they released their first iPhone? Apple was intentional in building momentum and brand awareness around the iPhone, even before it was seen or held by any consumer.
Here’s what happened:
The late Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple at that time, announced the iPhone at the Macworld convention center on January 9, 2007. His announcement received a lot of media attention. He told the audience the phone would come out later that year. There was a line of buyers from New York to Minnesota waiting overnight to purchase the iPhone on June 29, 2007.
Okay, the line didn’t go from New York to Minnesota. I only exaggerated to make a point.
As marketing guru Philip Kotler said, “The belief that marketing and selling are the same is a common and mistaken view held by many business people.”
So, what’s selling, then? Selling, as defined by businessdictionary.com, is the last step in the chain of commerce where a buyer exchanges cash for a seller’s good or service or the activity to bring this about.
- Why Is Marketing Important for a Small Business?
Consider where the users of the iPhone would be without their iPhones. Statistics show that Apple has sold more than 1.5 billion iPhones since 2009, making it the most used smartphone in the world. (Statista)
But let’s imagine for a moment. What if such a product was developed, only to remain in a beautiful box on a shelf?
No word about it. No ads or promotions. No showcasing what it does for the customer. No attempt to engage the customer with such a product.
The result? There would be no iPhone. Period.
The importance of marketing cannot be overstated.
- Showcases the value of your products and services.
- Sets your business up for increasing your sales.
- Tells your audience you’re serious about what you do.
- Informs and educates your audience about your products and services.
- Builds and nurtures relationships with your audience.
But the biggest benefit is that marketing levels the playing field for the business with a $50 marketing budget and the business with a $50,000 marketing budget.
They both can achieve their bottom line with workable marketing strategies and a marketing plan to make those strategies impact in a real way.
As in the case of the iPhone, the money generated from its sales so far would not have happened if no intentional strategic marketing was done.
Contrast that with the small-business owner who has a $50 marketing budget, who doubles down and is consistent in leveraging marketing strategies that actually work. I bet that at the end of the day, that small-business owner would also achieve the outcome they desire.
- What Is the Best Marketing Strategy for a Small Business?
When it comes to marketing strategies, one size does not fit all. Having a successful business will call for your being attentive to the results you’re getting overtime from your marketing efforts and doubling down on what works.
But, there’s usually one strategy that stands out above all marketing strategies. Some may refer to it as the best marketing strategy.
And what is this strategy?
The best marketing strategy for a small business is to start with the end or end result in mind.
That equips you to set up the best possible channels for achieving the outcome you’re looking for from your marketing.
With that in mind, here are two questions for you to consider:
Why did you get into business in the first place? Will your end result lead to a sustainable business that becomes successful?
Example: A Business Achieving Its End Result and Outcome
Eric Yuan, the founder of Zoom, came to the United States from China during the ’90s. His dream was to pursue the internet, but that dream did not become a reality overnight. He was denied a U.S. visa eight times. When he was finally approved, the process took two years to complete. He founded the communication platform in 2012 prior to working for years for a Silicon Valley communication startup.
Yuan said in an interview with Thrive Global that he started Zoom as a daydream—a solution to a long-distance relationship that required a 10-hour train ride to see the other person.
Fast forward to today. Zoom is now used by more than 750,000 companies worldwide to keep their teams connected through video and audio conferencing, collaborative workspaces, chat, and more.
What’s the point?
Eric Yuan had an end result in mind: A solution to a long-distance relationship. And the outcome? A thriving successful business.
How about you?
Does your best marketing strategy entail an end result?
- Before You Put Any Small Business Marketing Strategy in Place
When taking a road trip, you need to be certain of some things that will enable you to get from Point A to Point B. One of your must-haves might be a map or a GPS.
Likewise with your marketing strategies. Taking the time to plan and to make such a plan impact your bottom line can dramatically give you the results you’re looking for.
So, before implementing any strategy: know your buyers, know what your offer is to your buyers, and make sure that offer is irresistible.
- Know Your Buyers
Have you identified the people who will buy from you? Be clear about your buyers and customers. What do they value? What are their problems? How quickly would they like these problems solved? What are their gender, age, and hobbies? What other competitors are they buying from? What avenues do you have to reach them? What process do you have in place to take them from being interested prospects to paying customers?
The answers to these questions will help you be strategic in your messaging and set up the best channels to give you the outcomes you’re looking for.
- Know What Your Offer Is to Your Buyers
Your offer is what makes or breaks your business. And this offer has to pull your prospects to buy from you—and not the competitor. The pulling aspect of your offer is that which makes it irresistible.
What Is an Irresistible Offer?
First, let’s talk about what an irresistible offer is not. An irresistible offer is not your website, a special offer, or a benefit. It is not even your product or your brand.
As Mark Joyner once stated, “An irresistible offer is the core imperative of your business.”
Your offer becomes irresistible when it meets the deepest longings of your customers and potential customers. Recent statistics from Salesforce show 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
As in the case of Dominos: “Pizza in 30 minutes, or it’s free.” Your business does not get off until you make the offer. Let’s look at Domino’s Pizza briefly:
Tom Monaghan purchased the first store in 1960, and by 2004, there were 7,000 Dominos pizzerias. Their gross sales annually were $4,000,000,000. But this did not happen overnight. Domino’s Pizza experienced some challenges and was nearing bankruptcy. And then something happened! They came up with the “30 minutes or less or it’s free” offer, and it pulled in the segment of the pizza-eating market who wanted their pizzas in 30 minutes or less. This offer took them to the top of the pizza world. They became the number-one pizza delivery in the entire United States until 1993.
Sell the benefits of your services or products. Describe how your products or service solve their problems. People don’t buy products—they buy results or benefits.
- Know How to Set Goals for Your Marketing
Let’s say you have your end result in mind as you start your marketing campaign. Please note the end result is there to guide you and can be retweaked. You may choose to generate more foot traffic to your local business or drive visitors to your website.
You will then:
- Work backward from your end-result.
- Identify the costs of your campaign.
- Determine your estimated revenues.
- Describe the tracking process you’ll use.
- Focus on one step or goal at a time.
- Set in place a benchmark to evaluate the success or changes needed.
SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING TOOLS THAT WON’T BREAK THE BANK
Are you operating on a modest budget? These four tools will help you market like a billionaire to get your outcome (even with a tight budget). Being strategic in every area of your marketing is critical.
- Small Business Marketing Budget: Eye Your Money
Money will give you the leverage to combine your ideas with execution—thus enabling you to achieve your desired results. As Steve Jobs said, “Money is important. Money does a lot of things. One of the most important is to create choices.”
Therefore, why should every dollar be made to count, whether it’s $50 or $50,000? Because customer-generating activities could stall if there’s no account of money spent.
So, determining to set goals and a budget for your marketing is essential for your business’s growth and survival. Make these goals specific, relevant, attainable, and time-based.
- Small Business Marketing Plan: Your GPS for Navigating a Tough Terrain
As stated before, having a marketing plan—even a simple one—is an essential first step.
But what is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a document that outlines the marketing strategy for your business and its products. Or as Al Ries and Jack Trout put it: “Marketing plan is not a long-term plan, it’s a long-term direction.”
Some elements of a marketing plan are:
- Market Research. What are the size, buying habits, and current trends of your target audience?
- Your Buyers’ Personas. Who they are—their age, sex, interests, etc.?
- Budget. What you will spend within six months or a year?
- Positioning. What singular goals and objectives will you focus on?
- Marketing Strategy. What specific steps will you take to attract and engage your buyers?
- Metrics. How will you track your marketing progress?
- Competitive Analysis. Who are your competitors, and what are they offering?
Create a marketing plan that’s relevant to you and your target market. And let it be one that’s continually set-in-motion to drive your marketing with specific outcomes for your clients and real results for you: Here’s an example of a simple marketing plan.
- Website: Your Showroom to Your Prospects and Customers Online
About 60% of small businesses invest in a website as a part of their marketing strategy.
The internet is often the starting place that leads to a buying decision, whether online or offline; 81% of people do research online before they visit a store.
So be strategic in building a lead-generating website by optimizing your keywords. Set up opt-in forms, a well-crafted about page, your social media links, and lead boosters like free resources.
Add a blog for engaging your audience regularly with informative and educational content. This will allow you to build trust and rapport with your customers and prospects. If the ongoing content creation seems daunting, you can always outsource that part of it.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: Your Eye on Your End Result
Keeping tabs on what strategy is working best is essential for achieving your bottom line. Without it, you may be trying to fill a bottomless bucket with water. Your CRM system helps you understand the ongoing success of your marketing initiatives, and it helps you track sales opportunities effectively.
ONLINE MARKETING FOR SMALL BUSINESSES:
12 PRACTICAL MARKETING STRATEGIES TO IMPLEMENT ON A SHOESTRING BUDGET
The hardest part of marketing online is getting started. Setting your goal and creating your game plan will eliminate some of what seems overwhelming and daunting. Knowing you have your specific buyers and end results in mind, with the necessary tools, you can then double down on the strategies that’ll work best for you.
- Begin Your Online Marketing With the End or End Result in Mind
Know what you want to achieve at the end of your marketing campaign or ongoing marketing effort. What’s in it for your customers? What’s in it for you and your business? Will there be partners? If so, what’s in it for them? What’s the long-term game plan for consistent success? What are some challenges you might face, and how will you overcome those challenges?
Beginning with the end result in mind should help you answer these questions with reference to your marketing strategy: How will you engage your prospects? How will you attract? How will you nurture or delight? How will you convert those prospects into customers? How will you measure and track your results?
- Set Yourself Up to Measure and Track Your Results
Online marketing gives you the opportunity to monitor your marketing performance. Four tools that can help you track your results are Google Analytics, HubSpot Marketing, Yoast, and Mailchimp. These tools are free or offer free plans. Here’s an example of tracking page views.
- Look at What Your Competitors Are Doing
Not everything your competitors are doing may be working. Or…it might just be. Looking at what your competitors are doing may help you to pave your way strategically.
Here are some questions to ask when you’re examining the competition: What is their pitch to this audience? Who are they targeting? How are they getting in front of this audience? What channels are they using to reach out?
- Leverage Your Social Media Presence
When it comes to social media marketing for small business – Be strategic. Start with mastering one or two of the social media platforms. Your social media presence will help you establish a personal connection with your audience. It also helps you to market cost-effectively. Five of the social media platforms are YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Build Your Email List
Your small business marketing automation through email is critical. Amazon has a list called Amazon Prime, and it leverages such a list for its ongoing success. No matter what type of business you have, an email list is the most important of any successful marketing strategy.
Call it paying members or free subscribers, your email list is to your business ongoing success as an engine is to a car.
With your email list, you can showcase your services or products, engage and nurture your audience by giving them value on an ongoing basis, and you can promote your business while converting your audience into long-lasting customers and raving fans.
Start today by integrating an email marketing automation platform into every single page on your website. Five email services are ConvertKit, HubSpot, AutoPilot, Active Campaign, and Mailchimp.
- Know Your Marketing Channels
To remain a viable business, you must ensure your customers and prospects have smooth, consistent interactions across all channels of your business. According to Aberdeen Group Inc., companies with the strongest multichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers as compared to 33% for companies with weak multi-channel strategies.
Here’s a statistic when SuperOffice asked 1,920 business professionals to share their number one for the next 5 years.
If you as a small business desire to achieve results from your marketing, then you must be certain about the channels or avenues that will get you those results. Some of these channels could be networking events, your website, social media, print advertising, word of mouth, blogging, texting, brochures, and telephone calls.
- Turn Your Customers into Raving Fans
Earlier on we talked about Steve Jobs creating momentum around the launching of the iPhone. Let’s imagine if Jobs’s purpose was just to have a massive sale for a short period of time and then to leave the scene for good. The iPhone would not have stayed around for as long as it has.
Steve Jobs worked at not only causing hype about the iPhone but factored in creating customers who became raving fans for the iPhone and other of their products, thus enabling Apple to grow to the level it has.
Your customers who become your raving fans will be your ambassadors—spreading the word for you. According to Convince and Convert, 83% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family.
- Create Partners in Business
Ever heard of cross-promotion? One of the best small business marketing tips you can ever get is to team up with other business owners on a joint venture. By doing this, you could lower advertisement costs, increase your reach, and cultivate new possibilities.
- Make Friends with Paid Advertisement
Integrate your free marketing methods with paid ads. Paid ads give you highly targeted audiences and fast results. Paid ads also help to drive qualified traffic to your website. Start with one or two objectives, like driving visitors to your website, collecting email addresses for your list, or promoting a new service or product. For example, with a clear strategy in place, you could begin a Facebook ad for under $10.00.
- Hire Freelance Marketing Help
Marketing can be overwhelming for many small-business owners. As the business environment evolves and shifts to more digital, marketing your products and services is becoming more challenging. And even after giving it your all, you may end up with minimal results or no results.
But what do you do when you want your business to survive? Hiring freelance marketing help will help you maximize your time, resources, and effort (especially when you’re on a tight budget). 70% of small businesses in the U.S. have hired a freelancer in the past.
Five of the top sites for finding freelance marketing help are Freelancer.com, Upwork, Fiverr, LinkedIn, and Guru.
- Ask for Reviews
Asking your customers for reviews is a great way to build rapport with them, letting them know their satisfaction with your service or products matters. Reviews from your satisfied customers give more weight to assure the buyer than what you have to say. 93% of consumers say that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions. (Source: Qualtrics)
- Be Human
You are a small-business owner. Your business is about you, the value you give your customers, and your customers. Tell your ongoing story as you reach out to your audience. Your ongoing story doesn’t necessarily have to be a hero story. This story is about your journey as life happens for you as a small-business owner. Remember that you serve other humans who are impacting you as you impact them. Therefore, your ongoing story can be a bridge to help you and your customers connect in the calm or the storm.
5 LOW-BUDGET LOCAL MARKETING IDEAS
These five ideas, when implemented strategically, can help you achieve your desired outcome when marketing locally—even on a limited budget.
- Say Hello to Your Community
Does your community know of your business and the value it provides? Let’s say you’re a plumber, and you may be listed on Angie’s or Craigslist. But your community still has never heard of the benefits your business provides.
Say hello and introduce yourself and offer a 20% to 50% first-job discount. Give them references from past customers (if you have them) to contact. As per what to use for your message, you could put your message on flyers shaped into a plunger and place them in the hands of residents. This “saying hello” could be done quarterly and can be retweaked as needed.
- Claim Your Google My Business Listing
Local businesses—real estate agents, plumbers and the like—can achieve great benefits from online marketing when they make it easy for their customers and prospects to find them. Forty-six percent of all searches on Google have local intent, and the information usually sought after is the business location. Three of the benefits: you have control over the information you provide, you stand out from competitors with your unique keywords, and you advertise freely on Google as in this example:
Also, submit your site to other free local business listings and directories to help you get found, five of which are Apple Maps, Facebook, LinkedIn Company Directory, Bing, and Yelp.
- Network to Give Value and Get Result
Networking, whether done face to face or virtually, is critical. It helps you build mutually beneficial relationships. These relationships could translate to collaborating with others in promoting your businesses or cultivating new opportunities for a joint venture. Networking can also be done by participating in local business mixers, trade fairs, and other local events, thus enabling you to get engaged with your community.
- Teach and Share Your Knowledge
Marketing, as stated earlier, is about moving your audience to desire your products or services. And what better avenue to accomplish such than teaching? This teaching could be done in a blog post or in person. Look for volunteer opportunities with organizations dealing with your audience. Two examples are the Chamber of Commerce and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).
You can also teach on the phone, through podcasts, webinars, videos, seminars, and workshops.
- Leverage Holiday Contests
Running ongoing contests could reinvigorate the down times in your business, keep you on the radar of your audience, and create new customers. Let’s say you tap into the holidays and select Mother’s Day. You could then get a roll of paper towel and let each mother guess how many sheets are on that roll. The mother who is closest to the number wins and could get a personalized mug or whatever you deem okay. The rest of the mothers could be given coupons toward your products or services. These contests could also be done around birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
HOW TO TAKE ACTION TODAY: WORKSHEET
Now that you’re thinking about creating a small business marketing strategy, one that includes small business marketing ideas to execute on a modest budget, here are some questions to guide you along the way.
Why do you want to market? What are you marketing?
What is your desired end result from this marketing effort?
Who are your primary customers?
Where are your primary customers? (Are they local, in-state, in the US, or elsewhere across the globe?)
How do most of your customers find your business? (Do they use search engines, online ads, direct mail, word of mouth, foot traffic, or something else?)
What tools do you need to implement your marketing strategy/s?
What companies do you follow that are marketing successfully?
Why do your customers buy from you?
How do you measure and track the success of your marketing?
Who will manage your ongoing marketing?
How much do you want to spend on marketing each month? Or a year?
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Is small business marketing worth the effort? I would say the answer lies in the success of all the thriving small businesses we see every day – Small business marketing with results can only happen when there are effective strategies that are consistently executed to give you your ROI.
Now in closing – Take steps to apply these small business marketing strategies and achieve your desired outcome.
Marketing isn’t easy.
But even more daunting is achieving minimal results after giving it your all.
Yet, it’s up to you. Other businesses are marketing with great success and you can too.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed at times. Many business owners do.
But if you believe the value you provide to your audience is impactful, then don’t throw in the towels.
Let this guide re-awaken your dream. It might not have given quick easy answers, but it provides you different small business marketing strategies and ideas so you can market with confidence – even if it means you outsource some aspects of your marketing.
Select one strategy at a time and test it. Measure and track the results to see if the strategy achieved your end-result – If it doesn’t, don’t give up.
Keep trying different strategy/s until you find the one that works best for you.
Don’t forget: there are many successful business owners out there. There’s no reason why you can’t be one of them, too.